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Man as a Spiritual Degree

As soon as a spark of spirituality appears in a person, even as an impulse that is still hidden from his eyes, he stops being satisfied with his life. He begins to search for something beyond money, honor, sex, food, power and knowledge, and doesn’t know where to find what he really wants. This is the first time he feels that there is something that does not exist in his surroundings in this world. That spark evolves later on to become the desire for contact with the Creator and adhesion with him.

All throughout this way, man is called “man” because of his desire to cleave to the Creator, by which man’s degree is measured. We still have the desires in the degree of still, vegetative and animate, but our ‘man’ degree is measured by the intensity of the desire for the Creator.

In his introduction to the book“Panim Meirot Umasbirot,” Baal HaSulam writes that all the desires except the one called “man” are measured by the desired object:

Every person has attributes that he wants to keep as they are, and ones that he wants to change for spirituality. To the extent that I am willing to give up my inner attributes for the purpose of attaining spirituality, I am called “man,” and to the extent that I am unable to give up certain attributes, I am called a “beast.” The beastly degree is one where a person does not want to change, meaning refuses to change his inner traits.

For example, he may think that for the time being, he is unable to get rid of what he has inside him, not even for the spiritual goal. Where he is still unable to give up something, he is called a beast. That, in fact, is the contradiction between the collective and the individual. There is no greater contradiction than that. There is no greater difference in the entire creation, than between man and the Creator. In our world it is expressed by the contradiction between the collective and the individual – the Kabbalist. The collective advances according to its nature, whereas the unique individual, who yearns for connection with the Creator, advances according to the attributes of the Creator already in him.

The main difference is in the education: for the general society it is best to stay conservative, in a still degree, unchanging. Everything that is taught in it should be kept without change. That way man keeps himself safe from assimilation. However, for the individual, the more different and disobedient his personality is to others, guided only by the feelings in his heart, the nobler it is. Therefore, the situations and the path of the unique individual should not be mixed with those of the ordinary person, who is one of many.

But he who feels a desire for the Creator, who has a spark in his heart, for that person there is a different Torah, as it says, “The rule of Torah is different to the rule of landlords.” Such a person must develop his uniqueness within him through the study of the Kabbalah.

The study of Kabbalah was forbidden to the masses. Kabbalists prohibited the study to women, children and men under 40 (in Kabbalah, the age 40 signifies intelligence – Bina, when a person already understands that the purpose of his life is giving, something the public cannot understand because they are still at a beastly level). In other words, the study was forbidden to those who haven’t evolved enough to be able to study Kabbalah.

Beginners often ask if Kabbalah is against religion. Well, Kabbalah is opposite to any kind of religion, because it is a science, and science is the opposite of religion. However, Kabbalah does not negate religion.

As soon as there is a spark, a sensation of the appearance of a soul, one must study Kabbalah. When Rabbi Kook was asked: ”Who can study Kabbalah?” He replied simply: “Anyone who wants to!” The desire is the one measurement for the development of the soul.

Baal HaSulam writes that if a person is ready to study Kabbalah, but refrains from doing it, then he is the reason for all the disasters, because he did not contribute his share, himself, to the management of creation. The collective law of reality is built in such a way that if a person must take an active part in the leadership of reality and refrains from doing it, the rough part of nature comes in its place. That switch between the force of man and the force nature is felt in our world as tragedies and pains. As soon as man begins to feel a desire for the Creator, he must learn how to correct himself and thus change reality. If he refrains from doing that, he becomes the source of all the evil in the world.

My teacher, Rabbi Baruch Ashlag said that before Baal HaSulam (1885-1954), all the books about Judaism were written by Kabbalists who wrote from their spiritual attainment. Throughout history, Kabbalists were the ones to define the upbringing of the nation.

During the British mandate in Israel (1917-1948), Baal HaSulam tried to publish a Kabbalistic magazine. He saw that the time came when the public wanted to approach the spiritual degree that only a chosen few had reached before. Hence, he tried to explain to the people what Kabbalah was about. But there was still a need to convey it in a simple and easy understandable manner, explain what it can give to man, and what its goal is. Then, everyone would be able to make their own choice, and the ones who were really attracted to the upper one would come. If we do not give people a chance to choose, meaning develop of their own free will, we will inflict horrendous troubles on this world.

But why is this upbringing needed now, and was not needed a hundred or two hundred years ago? After all, education always played a big a part in Jewish life, children as young as three began to study. The thing is that only after the last deportation in the previous century, and the return to the land of Israel, a new era has begun in the evolution of the souls. When the Creator brought us back to the land of Israel, he also brought us back to the ‘spiritual soil.’ Meaning, he gave us an opportunity for spiritual operations and sublime attainments. That process is only just beginning; hence the new need to explain Kabbalah to the entire generation.

In the past there wasn’t a need to study Kabbalah. Baal HaSulam wrote that there were many who attained high spiritual degrees through the Written and Oral Torah. But in Kabbalah books there is a greater illumination of upper light, which can assist one in the correction process. Though all holy books were written from the highest spiritual degree of the “End of Correction,” the Kabbalah books that were written for our generation have a unique shine, instead of a general illumination, because they were written especially for those who want spiritual elevation in our time.

Although there are high degrees of understanding that a person who reaches them cannot make mistakes, but in the beginning and the middle of the way, there are many different routes, according to the root of one’s soul. Therefore, Kabbalists were not always open with one another, and sometimes concealed themselves even from fellow Kabbalists.

Once, when my teacher finished a discussion with a certain person, I asked him if that person was a Kabbalist. He replied: “I think he is, partly.” I asked him surprised: “What do you mean, partly?” He answered: “He does not want to show himself, so it is impossible to see.” He then went on to explain: “He must show you his screen. If a Kabbalist does not want to be exposed, he can appear before you as a drunk, or a worthless person. But if he does wish to expose himself, he displays his screen and you begin to work together with a collective vessel, and then everything changes. It is like two experts doing something they are completely preoccupied with, they understand one another perfectly; they don’t even need words, they share a common revelation.”

There are different ways to spiritual ascents. It is evidently displayed in the division of Israel to twelve tribes, where intermarriage was forbidden. On the one hand there was the love of Israel, but on the other, a prohibition to live together, to intermarry, to bond and correct one another. Every one had to correct his share separately, something that seems odd to us now.

The entire process of our spiritual work stems from a spiritual Partzuf called ZON (Zeir Anpin and Nukva) in the world of Atzilut. There are many ways for correction, and one does not contradict the other. Souls stay apart because the unification between them happens only in the degree of the end of correction. The greatest differences are then corrected and sorted out, right before the last and greatest unification with the upper light. The greatest observations are still to come. We must understand that this is a natural process that the collective soul, meaning the whole of mankind experiences. The nation should remain as it is, but the worthy ones, and there are quite a few of those, should not be denied of the study of Kabbalah. That is what the great Kabbalists warn about.

Kabbalists are not saying that we must teach everyone, but in our degree, it must be understood that Kabbalah is a method of development that obligates every one. People come, listen, and leave. By that they prepare themselves for the next stage in the correction. Reading the books of Kabbalah is a correction, and the rest is up to the Creator.

Something learned is never lost. If one comes and leaves, he will return, even if it is two or three hundred years later. Each person is built differently. There is no wrong or right here, but only a certain order. Kabbalists should arrange their work with the various groups in the nation, by an order that is given from above. There is no way to resist what is decided above. We must do as Baal HaSulam instructed, to spread his books, which were written especially for our generation, to circulate the knowledge and whomever catches it, it is a sign that he needs it.

Take for example the Jewish prayer book. It is an order of corrections that a person must perform; it is the order of man’s work. The prayer is the work of the heart, and we have to come to a situation where the prayer will be in the heart, that this work would improve our inner traits, our desires.

We are comprised of a nature called the “evil inclination,” and there is also a Godly spark in us, that cannot be put out. Those two seem to contradict one another and create a constant inner pressure inside us. When the evil inclination is in control we don’t feel the pressure, but if we develop the Godly spark, it starts a struggle between them, at the end of which the evil inclination surrenders and we become “man.”

Hence, it is better to be either on the side of the careless ‘beastly nature’ or in constant contact with the Creator as ‘man’, then to be left hanging in the middle. Today we are stuck in the middle, which is why we cannot enjoy our lives. It was once enough for us to enjoy a sports match on the television, go for a walk and spend time in bars. But we are now in a transition period between man and beast and hence feel bad. This unpleasant time can go on for many years. There is nowhere to run from it, as King David says, ”If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in the nether-world, behold, Thou art there.” (Psalm 139, 8)

One who compares himself to the Creator feels that he’s corrupted and needs correction. The perfection only appears to him after he sees the evil in him. One, who was brought up by a different spiritual method and was brought up for perfection, cannot feel that something is missing. But one day he too will begin to feel the point in his heart, and inside it – the Creator. Then, he too will feel the difference and will come to the recognition of evil.

The Kabbalah must not be circulated aggressively or coercively so as not to interfere with one’s development. Man himself should ask himself what he was born for, what is the meaning his life. All we need to do is bring him to ask this question.

Work for the Creator is a work that one does in order to equalize his attributes with the Creator’s. It is the one effort that man does against his own will. All other efforts are only intended to satisfy one’s own will.

A person makes a decision: “I take a certain amount of beating, vs. a certain amount of pleasure. Which is more rewarding, to be pushed by the beating or to be pulled by pleasure?” It is all done as any animal would do it. It is just like animals that are tamed at the circus: first the stick, then the sweet. The bear begs for the sugar cube because he’s found that it is more rewarding to amuse the audience and receive the pleasure in return.

“Man” is the only one who can detach himself from the reward. It does not mean that he is not rewarded, he just transfers to a different kind of payment: first he performs a restriction (called “the first restriction”) so as not to receive anything for himself. This is called crossing the barrier. After that begins an entirely different kind of calculation – a calculation in favor of the Creator. Giving to the Creator – that is the goal and the purpose of the calculation. All calculations from then on are performed in order to detect the goal as precisely as possible – what is the goal, what is the aim, and what does man strive to attain through all these efforts. The conclusion he arrives at is that he wants to give to the Creator as much as possible.

There is a Creator and there is a creature. The creature goes through various phases, from the dawn of human history until today and until the end of correction. We live and relive in this world many times over. We evolve from one life to the next and there is a purpose to that. Starting from a certain degree, a person becomes active in his own evolution. At this stage he feels a calling from above in his heart, as though something is pulling him, pushing him toward something.

If one knows that these things actually exist, he will speed up his own development. The minute he learns about it, he begins to read about it and accumulate knowledge. That awakens the shine of the surrounding light on him and his development is accelerated. Therefore, it is essential to study the principals of the Kabbalah, such as the book Matan Torah (The Revelation of Godliness) by Baal HaSulam in schools, in order to accelerate the development of children. This way, we can prevent the child from living ten or fifteen times what he can attain in one or two cycles and spare himself the unnecessary torments.

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